The greatest challenges of caring for a senior dog

The Greatest Challenges of Caring for a Senior Dog

The greatest challenges of caring for a senior dog

I loved my senior dog Red more than anything, and when she died I fell apart. I would be lying if I said it was always easy caring for her, and I’m honest when I say at times I wished it was over.

I know these are sentiments shared by many senior dog parents, particularly those of us who were and are dealing with serious health issues.

We love them, they’re part of our hearts and souls, and we’re blessed to have them another day. Many of us give up a lot to keep them comfortable and safe. You’ll hear a lot of people say they don’t go on vacations, would rather stay home with their dog than socialise with friends, and spend money on their senior dog’s care rather than on themselves or that they don’t really have.

I feel it’s important to write a post about the challenges of caring for a senior dog for one main reason, and that is so no one feels alone, like they’re the only one that has these challenges and finds it a struggle. That is also one of the reasons why I created my Facebook group Senior Dog Care Club.

Let me clarify – I am not suggesting every senior dog is difficult to care for, no way. This is specifically about those who are ill.

The Greatest Challenges of Caring For a Senior Dog

My biggest challenges caring for Red

In the last few months of her life, when chronic pancreatitis and kidney issues were making it tough for her to eat, and tougher for me to know what to feed her I found those times extremely challenging.

If I want to go further back the really tough times started 2 ½ years before she died when I realised she had dementia. The lead up to that – constant pacing, peeing on the floor, never settling even after hours of wandering. Trips to the vet and tests showed no explanation, and my vet never mentioned the “D” word until one day it popped into my head and I knew.

Times were so tough I would have to leave the house and let her wander. She was safe but I was losing patience and that was not fair to her, because none of this was her fault. It was the feelings of frustration, having no idea how to help her because I had no idea what was wrong with her. I would go for a long walk to the beach, or leave my husband in charge and go shopping for a couple of hours. Those breaks made me a better caregiver.

I would call this next point a stressor rather than a challenge but…my vet is amazing and I couldn’t have asked for anyone better. Red was a very complicated case, one of the most he had ever dealt with, but he is so excellent he did a great job helping me. The stressor? He didn’t work every day, he would take vacation or go back to his home country and lecture at the university. I was petrified every time she didn’t feel well in case he wasn’t there to help. Yes there are a couple of other vets at his practice, but none of them could help me with Red if it was anything more complicated than an IV, or perhaps prescribing diarrhea medication. I didn’t trust them with more than that.

There are a couple of other practices in my small town but I wouldn’t take her there even if her life depended on it. So yes, that was a huge stressor for me, worried that we would need him and he would not be around. Thankfully he was there to help me when it was time for her to get her wings, and I was so grateful for that.

what are some of the greatest challenges of caring for a senior dog

 

What are some of the challenges facing others who care for old dogs?

The incredible members of my Facebook group very graciously shared their challenges for this article as a way to help others, so thank you everyone!!

Here they are

Caring for two at once that have major, serious illnesses (seizures, heart disease, kidney disease, stroke), keeping all the medications, foods, vet appointments straight, cleaning up after them and hoping I’m giving them good qualities of life. But knowing the time I have with them is not long is probably the worst. If I could have them forever, I would gladly take all the work involved; and that’s something I have to keep reminding myself.

Right now, in these early stages, it’s everyone getting a good nights sleep. One of us sleeps in the living room with Buck every night. His worse time is between 12 and 5. This is in spite of the meds he takes. During the day, he’s pretty much his normal self but in a slower mode. His tail still wags and his eyes still sparkle.

I think my biggest challenge is remembering that this is uncharted territory for him too. We’re both having to learn and adapt as we go. Also, trying to make sure I see the forest for the trees.

Incontinence and keeping her skin healthy around her back end. Getting to know the correct level of exercise needed to help arthritis but not exhausting the heart.

Besides facing the reality ‘that day’ is getting closer…. CCD is a sad emotional roller coaster.

For me like many others it’s the anxiety I feel every day, never knowing if I’m doing enough, wondering when she will go or need to go. I can’t even face the fact that one day she will not be with me. Wilma is very unsettled around 4pm and can pace and whine for 2 – 3 hours, I never know why but it’s the same most days. She’s great in the mornings and sleeps soundly through the night.

There are so many things but mostly am I doing right by them and doing everything I can. I research and research in case there is something new to try. One has dementia and the other has cancer. Some days are exhausting for sure but I just love them both so much.

the biggest challenges of caring for a senior dog

Getting them to finish their dinner

Getting them to keep their dinner in💟

Having accidents on herself & her not even knowing she did. Struggling to walk due to arthritis. Not wanting to take her medication. And knowing our time grows shorter every day with new struggles. Seems to be good one day and then completely different the next day.

Seems like ever since my boy got older he thinks rules don’t apply to him anymore. Like when we sit on the couch with any kind of food he will get up next to our face & stare. He never did that til about 6 months ago. We tell him to get down & he just goes to the other side of the couch. Lol stinker

Guinness does that with his CCD, it’s like his brain short circuits because the focus is on “what’s that!?” and disregards boundaries/tasks. He does it on our walks outside too, so if a leaf blows you can bet he’s not going to do his business. Ha!

Deciding on when is the right time for them to go to the rainbow bridge…. hoping it happens while he’s sleeping … no pain , just an old man ❤️

Not worrying too much about how much longer I will have them💕

I sometimes get impatient with my girl Hanna, she has incontinence and have to let her out often! Also worried that she’s in pain, but I don’t think she is yet!

Being patient .. it’s like it was when I was my mother’s care giver .. you do not get angry at them you get angry about the situation.. and you have to learn to accept that some days are harder then others.

Figuring out what mixture of treats and food will convince her to eat her breakfast. (2) Feeling new and growing bumps every time I give her rubs even though every one tested has been nothing more than a simple lipoma (3) knowing that she’s 10 and she won’t be here forever (4) every new white fleck on her face equates to another day older.

the greatest challenges facing senior dog caregivers

Sleep! I have had several senior dogs before, but none of them had CCD. Thanks to this group and the CCD one, we are doing much better overall, but the thing that is still the hardest for me to manage, is the lack of sleep. With all the herbal support we are getting, on our good nights, about 5 hours, if we are lucky sometimes 6 hours. On our bad nights we get from 30 minutes to a couple hours of sleep. This started back in October last year. With all the things I have learned here, things have improved. But since you asked, the hardest thing for me to manage is the lack of sleep.

Lack of sleep and worrying about making the final decision

Heavy panting middle of the night, waking up to take her out 2am, missing the days where she could run across fields, trying to get her to walk just a little bit longer, watching the deterioration, always rushing home from work and worrying about her, crying when I think of life without her one day… but there is the joy of how loving and sweet and devoted she is, and how blessed we are to have her so long.

Every time those tears come when you think of not having her, make it a point to make one memory with her and take a photo of it. Get her pawprint in plaster, sit with her on the grass, even just looking into her face and telling her how much you love her.

The niggling thought in the back of my mind as we enjoy the sun, love and joy of a perfect day of how many such days we may have left. The wonderful days win – I would do it a million times over always together no matter what now and forever after.

Just knowing that I am doing all I can to give him a good quality of life.

Patience

your greatest challenges caring for a senior dog

Biggest challenge is when they start failing physically but still have a lot of life left. I wish I had known of the things that make things easier! Belly bands to help with incontinence and lift straps and harness with handles. A nice doggy stroller is a must!! Just like with people, you don’t stop living because of some physical problems. There are so many things out there now and many people don’t know about them..

Knowing where it ends. I let no moment pass. No treat withheld. I lost the sister of my sibling pair 2 months ago. I regret nothing. Not the vet bills. Not the missed work. But the end….that was hard. I’m a nurse, who once was a paramedic. I’m no stranger to death. I knew what was coming and I had to be strong anyway. That’s the hardest. The end.

Never knowing if I’m providing the help they really need, instead of what I think they need.

Dealing with the slowing down and changes associated with her aging. And trying to figure out the best solutions for these problems as they arise. She has arthritis and trying to determine when we have walked enough, when she might be in pain, and how to best care for her.

Definitely eating, general nourishment and taking medication he may be on. Just when I think I found a consistent food he likes, he stops eating it!

I don’t even know where to begin. My baby boy has bone cancer which the vet said is aggressive and gave him a few months to a year. He’s big and I live on the second floor and what will I do when he can’t do the stairs but he is otherwise ok?? I have cried so much and each day is a challenge. I say this is my new norm. This is my life. It’s mentally and physically exhausting at times and I feel guilty saying that. Finding this group has been the best thing for me. I will need support of others who can identify with me. 🐾💙

Getting my senior not to climb out of the ”chair “she has to eat in because of her Mega Esophagus.

Especially with my CCD guy who is unknowingly annoying at times – and sadness as I watch him decline – and hoping we have more time😢😢❤️🐾 feeling Helpless too. I can’t “fix” him😢😢

Seeing my mostly healthy dog struggle with some physical stuff without an answer to really help. Also preparing my kids that our dog won’t be here forever – she was here before them 😢

Long hair between paw pads on timber or smooth floor, failing eyesight at night on stair an inability to run and play like used to with her younger sister🙏❤

Reading all these posts makes me so grateful to be part of this group. I know it will make the next few years with Hope better for both of us. Thank you again for adding me.

biggest challenges facing caregivers of senior dogs

My 15 year old toy poodle Rocky becoming blind almost a year ago. Seeing him bumping into things and going around in circles a lot, stepping on his own poop when I’m not home and coming out positive for heartworms and not afford to get treatment. He has dental problems that needs teeth to be extracted. Everyone says I’m selfish that he’s “suffering” to just put him to sleep

Wondering if her panting means she is in pain.. Worrying worrying

My beautiful 17 yr. old Gigi is mostly blind past few months. Hearing still good but wanders around now bumping into walls, furniture, etc….softly, but still bumping. Can’t leave her alone on my bed…she walks right off. So sad but we cope & support her with love.

Just accepting that my babe is elderly and right now feeling like we are on borrowed time

Dealing with her dementia…it really hurts to see her not hardly ever herself anymore.

I’m having difficulty accepting her mortality. She’s like a kid to me and shouldn’t die before I do.

Getting good pictures. 😂

Hardest part for us is that Miss Gretel doesn’t like to be cuddled anymore as she “never” stops walking these days …… I would love to cuddle up in bed with her :'( :'(

Keeping my worries to myself so Shadow doesn’t feel them. But, she’s been doing great mobility-wise since the stem cell infusion, which has given her back her youthful spunk and sassiness. My other big challenge is not so much with her as it is with hubby, who has some dementia and can’t always understand that Shadow’s super-sensitive GI tract cannot handle all the “people food” he sneaks to her when I’m not there to stop him.

$$$

Not knowing if I am doing the right thing and/or if I am giving her what she needs.

My 18 1/2 year old is starting to dribble/wet at night. I have him on a pee pad. I got diapers i didn’t like them. Now i got belly bands i like them but they get wet on the sides. Kotex with them??

Could you relate to some of what was said?

It’s tough reading what so many people are going through, yet I am happy there is a community for everyone to share their experiences, ask for and offer support, and discuss treatments and options that have helped.

Are you experiencing something similar? Why not share your story in the comment section below.

 

 

**I would like to invite you to join Senior Dog Care Club, my Facebook group for senior dog parents. There you will find lots of helpful tips and advice, a place to ask questions and share experiences. I look forward to welcoming you.**

 

 

 

 

Important things your senior dog wants to tell you

20 Important Things Your Senior Dog Wants to Tell You

Important things your senior dog wants to tell you

I talk to my dogs, I tell them what I’d like them to do, and I ask them questions. Whenever I do this while I’m on the phone with my mother she always laughs, and asks if they understand what I’m saying. Of course they do is my standard reply, and it’s the truth!! When I tell her the dogs are telling me something, she laughs even harder.

We never grew up with any pets, so living with animals is something foreign to her. It’s tough for her to grasp the fact they can understand what we’re saying, and they have lots to say in return.

So what are the important things YOUR senior dog is trying to tell you? This list comes straight from a very trustworthy source – the love of my life Red.

I may be old but I still want to enjoy my life

I don’t know why so many humans think just because we’re old we’d rather lie around on our beds all day. How boring is that!! It’s true many of us do it, but a lot of the times it’s because we’re bored out of our minds and don’t swimming is great exercise for a senior doghave the energy to move. Take me out for walks, play with me, and don’t leave me behind while the rest of you are out having a great time.

We both need exercise

I know just hearing the word makes you tired, and after working all day you want to sit yourself down and relax. Hey I hear you, I’m happy lying next to you on the couch, but the less active I am, the less active I become. You and I are going to get fat (you’re always complaining your clothes don’t fit!!) and sick. Not to mention our brain cells will start to die without some mental stimulation.

I still love to eat as much, but my metabolism isn’t what it used to be

You know what I’m saying, because the same thing happens to humans. I already mentioned the need to move our butts more, but I think it’s time to check my portion sizes, or find a better food for me that’s filling but less fatty.

I don’t need a treat every time you look at me!

Is it guilt or because I’m so darn cute? Whatever the reason, it really isn’t necessary to give me a treat every time you see me. Maybe if I did something to deserve it… but otherwise get your hand out of the treat jar!

I feel the cold more than I used to

I admit I always thought sweaters and coats were for sissies, but now I think it’s time you went shopping. It’s an activity you love so there’s no real effort is there! I beg you not to dress me up in dresses or ridiculous outfits, let’s my senior dog Red wearing a sweaterbe practical about this. A sweater in the house would be great too!

Could you also check the temperature in the room I’m sleeping in? Make sure the central heating is on, or at least add a heater so I can stay warm.

Oh yeah two more things – a nice fleece blanket on my bed would be great, because if I’m chilly I could always wrap myself up in it. A self-warming mat for the bed would be helpful too thank you!

I can’t see or hear you as well as I used to

It’s true I may have ignored you at times in my youth, but that’s because I was perfectly happy doing what I was doing and if I’m honest, you were being a bit of a buzz kill. Unfortunately that’s not the case anymore, it’s because I can’t hear you as well. How about training me with hand signals, this way I’ll still understand what you want me to do, and it will be fun to do some tricks again. Of course I may still ignore you at times because I’m busy!

If you’ve noticed me starting to walk into things, maybe stumbling, or even lifting my legs like a prancing pony when I walk, it’s because I’m starting to lose my sight. I would appreciate it if you didn’t just assume it’s a natural part of the aging process and let things progress. Please take me to the eye doctor not the vet, because as great as he is, he’s no expert in the field and perhaps something could be done to save my sight.

It would suck if I couldn’t see you anymore!

I’m not an idiot!

You know all those dog forums and Facebook groups you belong to, looking for tips on how to disguise all those disgusting medications you’re trying to give me? I hate to break it to you but you ain’t foolin’ me! I know they’re in there, and sometimes I spit the food out because I’m pissed you’re not being honest. Other times I give in because I know how hard you’re trying.

Sometimes I’m in pain

I hate the thought of slowing down and not being able to chase everything in sight, but we’re all getting older and I’m not immune to that condition called aging.

If you see me struggling to get up, not walking as far or as quickly, or lying in bed more than is normal, assume I’m in pain and get me some relief! I’m not wild about drugs but if it helps bring them on, but I would appreciate some natural solutions as well. Old doesn’t mean I shouldn’t still be able to move around.

Take me for shorter walks, some swimming would be great, and if there is a stroller that suits my body shape, one of those would be helpful. We can still enjoy going out, and I get to take a break when I need to without cutting our excursions short.

My world revolves around you

my old dog Red wearing a sweater in the houseI know you have friends, family, hobbies, a career, responsibilities and your new found hobby of knitting that is taking time away from everything in your life, but all I have is you. I know you have to leave me sometimes but my whole world revolves around you, and I love you no matter what, and that includes the days when you’re moody and maybe even a little less patient with me. You are my bestie, and I like to think I’m yours too.

I rely on you to adapt to my changing needs

If you notice I can’t jump onto the couch easily anymore buy me some stairs, and if I’m not seeing as well, make sure those kids don’t leave anything in my path. I have to rely on you to adapt to my changing needs. That also means taking me to the vet more often so he can catch something before it becomes too serious. What can I say, I have a lot of things still left to accomplish!

Don’t get mad at me for your mixed signals

You can’t get mad at me for begging at the table, when you’re the one who oh so casually puts their hand under the table during dinner and slips me some chicken. When I bark for more you yell at me. What’s up with that?

I need some personal space!

I am beyond grateful for the amazing care you take of me, and I know there are times when you have to make a lot of sacrifices. I know you want that purse but you spend the money on me instead. Having said that, sometimes 20 Important things your senior dog wants to tell youyou drive me nuts!!

It’s true I’ve told you I don’t like to be left alone too much, but once in awhile could you stop staring at me? I know you watch to make sure I’m still breathing and I know I worry you, but if you don’t get me a bit of alone time, even just a few minutes, I will have to report you as a stalker.

Sometimes I get confused

Cognitive changes happen, even dementia happens and believe me it’s not fun. I may forget my housetraining and have an accident, I may start wandering aimlessly, or even seem to not know who you are. Take me to the vet and if he thinks it’s dementia make sure you leave there with drugs and suggestions for natural treatments. I know for sure they’re out there and they can help.

I may need some help eating or even finding my bowl, so hold it up for me and help me.

You may have to cover your floor with pee pads, and I know it will give you a migraine but it’s for me!!

I’m starting to feel some anxiety and fear now

Whether it’s because my senses are failing me, I’m experiencing some pain or some other aging related issue, whatever the reason I am feeling a bit more anxious or frightened now.

There are ways you can help me though

  • Prepare a quiet space for me to go to if the house gets too noisy
  • my senior dog Red wrapped in a blanketPlay games with me and give me puzzles to figure out to help keep my brain functioning
  • Cover your beautiful slippery floors with some rugs or yoga mats. It’s very disconcerting to be sliding all over the place and not being able to get my footing
  • Sit with me on the couch and wrap me in a blanket because it will comfort me
  • If you have to leave me alone could you get someone to stay with me for company?
  • Valerian, Skullcap and Valerian, calming music, a Thundershirt and a plug in pheromone diffuser could help me feel less anxious.

I am a great listener

I never told anyone there were times you would hug me and cry when you were sad, and I didn’t mind getting all wet because all I wanted to do was be there for you. Always remember I’m still here for you, and I can comfort you as well as I ever did.

I still need to be pampered

No matter how old I get I still need a bath, I need my nails cut and if my hair grows, I need a trim. Remember, you’re not the only one who wants to look good! I would love for you to brush my hair while I snuggle next to you, but if you could buy a soft brush that would be great.

Sometimes I need a nap

I’ve caught you napping on the couch plenty of times, and I may need a nap on occasion as well. I appreciate you keeping me active, believe me I do, but make sure you schedule in some down time.

Please don’t abandon me because I’m old

Important things your senior dog would like to tell youI know many of my brothers and sisters from other mothers are being left in shelters when they get old. Please don’t do that to me. I’ve loved you ever since the day we met, and you should love me until the day I have to say goodbye.

Don’t deprive yourself of another dog

Don’t say you’ll never adopt another dog because it’s too heart breaking to say goodbye. So many of my senior dog pals weren’t as lucky as I was, so please give them a home in my honour…and memory

Don’t fall apart when I’m gone

I know you’re going to cry and blubber, crawl into bed and pull the covers over your head and disappear for awhile. I understand, we had such an incredible bond and I couldn’t have asked for a better home. Take the time you need to grieve, but not too much!! I will be over the rainbow bridge playing with all those who got here before me, and ready to greet those who will come after me. Celebrate how lucky you were.

Oh here we go with the waterworks. I knew my mom would blubber like an idiot when she wrote this last paragraph!! I asked her to do me one little favour, help me write this list, and now she’s in a state, hugging me so hard I can’t breathe.

 

 

I would like to invite you to join Senior Dog Care Club, my Facebook group for senior dog parents. There you will find lots of helpful tips and advice, a place to ask questions and share experiences. I look forward to welcoming you.

 

 

 

 

 

the joy of living with a senior dog

The Joy of Living With a Senior Dog

the joy of living with a senior dog

Is it our general attitude about all things “old” that causes us to see old dogs as not worthy of our love and care? As something that is ready to be casually tossed, replaced with a younger, faster and “better” model? I suppose in many cases that is true, certainly not for those who share their lives with senior dogs, or do so much to rescue and care for them, and definitely not in my case.

While those of us who have dogs with health issues know the stress and worry it causes at times, we also know it is not only about the sad and the difficult. Of course it isn’t!

 

If you’ve had the pleasure of your dog’s company for his whole entire life, there must be so much joy for the times you shared, and for times yet to be shared.  I’ve never had a puppy, preferring to adopt old dogs and that to me is pure joy.

I can’t think of many greater feelings than caring for dogs who are homeless at the end of their lives. It is impossible for me to convey the depth of emotion I experience when I save an older dog’s life, when I go to the shelter and pick up a dog who would have died alone, in a scary and unfamiliar environment. 

the joy of living with a senior dog

I love when my dogs sit next to me on the couch as I read a book, or snuggle up with each other – giving and getting comfort when needed.

Just like dogs of every age, my oldies are so happy to see me (those who can!) if I’ve been out for a while, and although they’re left in very comfortable surroundings, you can see how much safer they feel when I’m around. 

In addition to all that, I also like lower energy dogs. That is not to say “senior” means “slow”by any stretch, senior is simply a number marked by the turn of a calendar page. Plenty of old dogs are outrunning their puppy counterparts, and are more active than ever, that’s just a bit too energetic for my tastes. Don’t get me wrong – they all need time outside to sniff and explore, and to walk at whatever pace is comfortable for them, and that’s perfect for me. I don’t want to have to hike miles every day in order to satisfy their needs. If I want to take that hike periodically, and would like the company of one of my dogs as I do it, I get out the pet stroller and off we go together. 

So yes, while there may or may not be health challenges in your dog’s life, showing kindness and compassion to these wonderful creatures who bring so much joy into our lives, is what it’s all about. Not to mention caring for a senior dog is good for the soul.

 

 

**I would like to invite you to join Senior Dog Care Club, my Facebook group for senior dog parents. There you will find lots of helpful tips and advice, a place to ask questions and share experiences. I look forward to welcoming you.**